Friday Fodder: Burton keeps Wolfpack afloat
For the Tribune
Sports fodder for a Friday morning . . .
Deonte Burton is a wonderful college basketball player and is already one of the top players in Nevada Wolf Pack history. Burton, though, is in serious jeopardy of being nothing more than an afterthought the moment his Wolf Pack career comes to end this March. The reason is because he just hasn’t won enough in a Wolf Pack uniform. Burton could be headed to his third losing season in four years. The Pack has also won just two conference tournament games with Burton and has only been invited to one national postseason tournament. The final six regular season games and Mountain West tournament will go a long way in determining how fondly Burton’s legacy is remembered.
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Of course, without Burton, the Wolf Pack would have been one of the worst teams in college basketball the last four years. David Carter would likely be in his last season as head coach this year and there would be talk of converting Lawlor Events Center into an indoor football practice facility. Burton has kept Wolf Pack basketball afloat the last four years. But, right now, he is going to be remembered as nothing more than a stat collector on a lot of bad teams. And that’s a shame. He’s truly much better than that. That’s why it’s time he finally flips a switch on all of his incredible abilities and carries this team on his back. Every single night.
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Colin Kaepernick is about to significantly raise the average annual salary for a former University of Nevada student. The San Francisco 49ers quarterback has one year remaining on his rookie contract that will pay him roughly $1 million in 2014. The 49ers, though, will likely offer the former Pack quarterback a contract extension in the next few months in the neighborhood of three to five years and $40-$60 million. Should the Niners offer the extension and should Kaepernick sign it? Without a doubt. Football careers can end in a heartbeat. Quarterbacks like Kaepernick come along once a generation. The 49ers and Kaepernick are on the verge of winning multiple Super Bowls. The last thing they need to worry about moving forward is a contract.
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Most NFL fans could not care less that Missouri’s Michael Sam came out this week and announced that he is gay. All that matters to most fans is whether or not Sam can play and help their favorite team. And that is all that should matter. But it is important to understand why it is significant that Sam made his brave announcement. This goes far beyond football, making tackles and winning games. If Sam’s courage emboldens just one 14-year-old gay young man this summer to go out for his high school football team, it is worth it. Sports should be for everyone. It should be about your ability, heart, courage and character. Not your sexuality.
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Over the next eight months or so you will read and hear a lot about how great a player Derek Jeter has been for the New York Yankees. As Jeter travels along his Mariano Rivera Farewell Tour this season the media will gush about him as if he was the greatest player in the history of the game. Some will even label him the greatest Yankee ever, totally forgetting the likes of Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle and others. Don’t let all of the hype and hyperbole— and Yankee love— spoil your appreciation of what Jeter has accomplished. Yes, like all Yankees, he is a bit overrated but he deserves the praise just the same. Jeter and the way he has conducted himself with class and dignity throughout his career is the reason why some of us still pay attention to sports. In an era of cheaters and me-first players, Jeter was always a breath of fresh air.
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Luke Babbitt seems to be resurrecting his NBA career. Babbitt, who began the year in Russia, has played four games with the New Orleans Pelicans the last two weeks and has played quite well. The Galena High graduate has scored 30 points with 18 rebounds, five blocks and eight 3-pointers in just 85 total minutes. The former first-round pick, though, only needs consistent minutes to prove he belongs in the NBA. Babbitt is a player that you need to just throw out on the floor and leave alone. And at the end of the night you’ll see that he just helped you win in four or five different ways. He’s also still just 24-years-old. The Pelicans just might have stumbled on one of the best future sixth men in the NBA.
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OK, I’m sorry, but it is extremely difficult to get all that worked up about the Winter Games. I know that the athletes are doing it for the good old USA. And it is important that we all show our national pride. But a bunch of unknown people slipping and sliding on the ice and snow isn’t all that interesting unless, of course, they are from Jamaica and piling into a bobsled. The simple fact that you slap a U.S. flag on a jersey doesn’t make a sport interesting. When you get right down to it, it’s all just slipping and sliding and trying not to fall flat on your face in the ice and snow.
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It is also time the NHL pulls out of the Olympics. The reason the United States’ 1980 hockey gold medal will always be one of the greatest moments in history is because it was accomplished by a bunch of amateur players. I’d rather go home without a medal with a bunch of kids playing their hearts out than win a gold medal with a bunch of millionaires. It’s the same with basketball. Get the millionaire NBA players out of the Olympics. Give the sport back to the kids.
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